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(Frank Digiacomo, NYDailyNews, 14/06/2010)
The theme of Madonna's life story is that she gets her way - in love, life and business. But that was until she came up against Seagram's liquor fortune heir Edgar Bronfman Jr.
In Fortune's Fool: Edgar Bronfman Jr., Warner Music and An Industry of Crisis which Simon & Schuster will begin shipping to bookstores at the end of this month, investigative journalist Fred Goodman writes that Bronfman outplayed Her Madgesty after the pop star attempted to pressure him into paying a king's ransom for her stake in Maverick Records.
Madonna had founded Maverick at the height of her success in the '90s-to which she signed such hit artists as Alanis Morissette and Prodigy-but the label had seen better days by 2003, when the Material Girl began negotiating with Time Warner, which owned 40% of Maverick, to buy out her share. Madonna wanted $60 million, at least twice what Time Warner said it was worth, Goodman writes. But that same week, Time Warner's board was meeting to decide whether to sell Warner Music, so, the author adds: Placating Madonna was going to be someone else's headache.
Enter Bronfman, who, in March 2004, just three weeks after he closed the deal to buy Warner Music, got a call from Madonna's longtime attorney Allen Grubman, who told Warner Music's new owner he had 24 hours to solve the problem or Madonna was going to sue. Allen, this is nuts, Bronfman said. Give us some time.
No, she's implacable, Grubman responded. Madonna's price tag had risen, too - from $60 million to $200 million. Bronfman was willing to pay only $15 million, however and had the company's lawyers file a preemptive suit against the artist.
An angry Madonna accused Warner of treason and filed her own lawsuit. But, in the end, the author reports, she sold her 30% interest in Maverick to Bronfman for $17 million - only $2 million more than he had offered in the first place and a figure that almost certainly could have been reached without any public posturing.
Three months later, Bronfman and Warner Music Group Chairman Lyor Cohen sought to mend fences with the artist by inviting her to meet with them. Bronfman greeted Madonna with a gift-wrapped box. "You've been incredibly important to this company for 20 years," Bronfman told her. Inside the box was a diamond bracelet.
The gift, Goodman writes, seemed to hit the right note. She was like a little girl, Bronfman recalled. It broke the ice. Perhaps, but in 2007, Madonna announced she was leaving Warner to sign with concert promoter Live Nation in a 10-year, $120-million deal.
Madonna's spokeswoman Liz Rosenberg declined to comment on this story, telling Gatecrasher, I was not privy to the details of any of these negotiations.